There are a wealth of places to go for nature and wildlife in Peru. Infact, the entire country is full of species you might not see anywhere else. The hard part is choosing which destinations to include in a single trip. Diving into the research makes you realize you might need to actually move to Peru for awhile or make several more visits. In all seriousness, it’s a tough decision.
Almost as hard choosing destinations is identifying the diverse fauna. I wish I had the time in my life to explore all of the best places there are to go! It can be challenging at times to even know what you are looking at and in Peru it’s even tougher because the sheer number of species that are living here is absolutely astounding. So, as I sit here planning a trip for myself, and researching away, I will take you through some of what I’ve learned.
First Things First
Whenever I travel, I almost always check out iNaturalist before going anywhere or doing anything, especially because I am a photography enthusiast. This is an excellent online community of nearly 3.5 million people and it is one of my favorite resources for all things nature. With this very handy website you can learn what to expect and find help in identifying just about anything, and if you can’t, maybe you’ve just discovered something new! Wouldn’t that be amazing?
Another great feature to the website is a location map where you can find the best places to view a certain species you might be looking for, learn what to expect in an area you know you will be, and you can also find projects that you may want to contribute to. Supporting the iNaturalist community by sharing your own images both at home and when you travel is also an excellent way to memorialize your finds and your adventures.
With that, lets get the low down on some of the incredible animals you may come across in Peru.
The Camelids of Peru
When I think of Peru, the first animal that comes to mind is the Alpaca— which at one point in my life, I could not have told you the differences between that and a llama. If you are anything like me, don’t worry—the camelids are often confused. While I could have an entire post devoted to these wonderfully cute animals, I’ll just break it down quickly.
- Llamas are not regarded for their fleece and are the domesticated worker bees of the camelids. Their wool is used for things like rope an they come in a few different colors. They are however, the largest of the camelids.
- Guanacos have better fleece than llamas and are considered a wild animal. They only come in one color and have the distinctive white underbelly.
- Alpacas are known for their excellent fleece. There is one species with two fleece types, suri alpaca (shaggy) and the huacaya. They are domesticated and sometimes kept as pets because they are the more agreeable of the camelid lot. They also come in more than twenty colors.
- The most revered is the Vicuña and they are shy and wild. Their fleece is considered the crème de la crème of wools and it is worth more than gold as they can only be shorn every 3 years. As of the 1970’s they were hunted to near extinction. Fortunately, they have been making a comeback with concerted efforts at conservation. They can be found throughout the Central Andes and in elevations between 10,500 and 15,700 ft and they come in beatiful shades from creamy white to cinnamon. A lovely 3/4 length trench coat would set you back about $24,000!
Peru Is The Place For Birders
According to this Wikipedia there are an astounding 1,828 recorded species of birds, and this list from Peru Aves indicates there 104 bird species which are endemic to Peru. That’s alot to try and fit in! Narrowing down what you want to see is a fun way to spend your spare time before deciding on anywhere to go. Another excellent resource includes eBird which takes things a bit further with recordings of the birds and sitings, whether photographed or not.
One of the most well known of the winged species in Peru is their national bird, the Andean cock-of-the-rock. The natural habitat of this proud looking bird begins in Colombia and follows along the slopes of the Andes to the areas surrounding La Paz, Bolivia. In Peru, there are about five great general areas where to spot them, mainly in the cloud forests on the eastern slopes of the Andes. These places include the areas around Agua Calientes, Cusco, and the Madre de Dios regions, so if you are heading to Machu Picchu, you’ll get your chance.
Peru is also well-known among birders for having about 1/3 of all known species of hummingbirds which leaves just about 127 of them for you to spot. There are several great places to see them but, if you have a special one in mind that you would like to see, that makes creating your an itinerary a bit easier! Study up, buttercup!
One example of a bird with a fairly small habitat is the rare and endangered Marvelous Spatuletail. It is thought to only be found only be in the Rio Utcubamba Valley. For those who are looking to take the hummingbird highway and encounter this spectacular bird, you’ll want to head north around Tarapoto and Pomacochas. One look on the iNaturalist website and you can see their limited range.
Manú National Park
The best place to view the most species of flora and fauna in a concentrated area is Manú National Park. This huge reserve is globally renowned for being the most biodiverse of protected lands in the entire world. There have been over 1,000 species of birds alone recorded here! Within its boundaries are three different micro-climates, the Andean highlands, cloud forests and the lowland jungles of teh Amazon basin where you will find the most diversity.
Not every place in the Manú National Park is accessible for tourism and that’s good thing. There are three different zones; the cultural zone, the reserved zone and the resticted zone. Within the boundaries of each zone, different rules apply. In the cultural zone, traveling independently is possible, though it’s not always recommended to go that way, especially if you are pressed for time. Within the reserved zone, you would need to go with one of the authorized tour companies and there are just a handful who of qualified operators. Of course, the restricted zone is strictly off limits to tourism.